How to Check if In-App Browsers are Tracking You Using InAppBrowser

Users share links with each other, and often open these links using in-app browsers within social media apps such as TikTok and Instagram. This is when you open a link right within the app without having to leave and switch to a browser.

As convenient as this is, it has its own negative consequences, one of which is that such browsers can track your activities online. If you wish to prevent this, read on and find out how you can use this new app, InAppBrowser to find out if in-app browsers are tracking you.

What Is InAppBrowser, and Why Should You Use It?

InAppBrowser is an app that can reveal if an in-app browser is tracking your online activities by detecting JavaScript commands running on a mobile device or desktop. But why is this necessary? In-app browsers make it possible to just tap a URL within an app and view it on a web page. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it saves you the stress of having to copy links to address bars.

However, the creators of these apps can modify the in-app browsers to do more than just open URLs. They can make adjustments on them to become tracking tools by adding extra code that is used to keep track of your activities, through a process known as JavaScript injection. This is one of the reasons why some people disable the in-app browser on LinkedIn and other platforms.

screenshot of inappbrowser feedback

The modified JavaScript can illegally access your sensitive personal information, such as your passwords and usernames, credit card information, and so on–but this is not all. Such apps can also inject this JavaScript on websites you visit to allow them to monitor how you use the app.

This is done by collecting information such as the URLs you open, the buttons you tap, and every stroke of a button on the keyboard.

You need to routinely check to make sure no such illegal tracking of your activities is going on, which is why InAppBrowser was created by security researcher, Flix Krause. If you care about the security of your personal information, you can use the app to check and stop some trackers.

Which Devices Can In-App Browsers Track?

Any platform, such as social media, can track you. It’s apps like Instagram, TikTok, and its alternatives which are widely used on mobile devices that are of concern. This is because they have built-in browsers with the potential to track your activity. Therefore, InAppBrowser was created mainly for mobile phone users.

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However, browser extensions, such as DeFi wallets and others, can be used to inject JavaScript on your personal computer. Because of this, you can also use InAppBrowser on your computer to check for such injections from browser extensions you may have installed.

How to Check if You’re Being Tracked Using InAppBrowser

To check if there’s a JavaScript tracker on your apps or browser extensions, follow these steps.

Checking if You’re Being Tracked on Mobile

  1. Open the app you wish to check on your mobile device.
  2. Share the InAppBrowser link in a group or send to a friend within the app. You can even send it to yourself if possible. Whatever allows you to open the link within the app works.
  3. Tap on the link to open InAppBrowser within the app, using the in-app browser.
  4. When the website loads, it will come up with a report on which JavaScript is running on your device. It will also tell you the possible uses of the JavaScript, so you can know if there’s any cause to worry.

Checking if You’re Being Tracked on Desktop

If you have browser extensions, and you would like to check if they have any harmful JavaScript, simply open your web browser and visit InAppBrowser. The website will return a report on JavaScript currently running on your device.

The Limitations of InAppBrowser

Although InAppBrowser helps to detect the presence of JavaScript that may be malicious, it does not tell you if those JavaScript are actually dangerous or not. Since JavaScript is not always harmful and some are used for legitimate purposes, this can be a headache for someone who doesn’t know anything about programming and what may be harmful.

screenshot of inappbrowser feedback with disclaimer

Secondly, There is an “Isolated World” situation in which the host app on mobile devices and particularly iOS can still inject some commands into a website without InAppBrowser figuring out which code was used.

It is also incapable of detecting other possible app tracking that may be going on “such as custom gesture recognition, screenshot detection, or tracking of web request events”. This means that the application only gives you an idea of what kind of JavaScript commands are running on your phone or desktop. It’s up to you to figure out which are harmful and which aren’t.

What You Should Do to Stay Safe Using In-App Browsers

InAppBrowser helps you detect commands running on your devices, but cannot tell you if those commands are harmful. It is therefore up to you to take some general precautions to prevent bad commands from getting on your device in the first place.

First, you should be careful which apps you install on your phone, or the kind of browser extensions you install on your desktop. If you only install legitimate apps and extensions, you may significantly reduce the chances of developers including codes that can spy on you.

You can remove the ones you don’t need currently by right-clicking on them and selecting Remove from Brave or whatever browser you’re using.

screenshot showing browser extensions on brave browser

Secondly, do not open URLs within apps. This sounds very simple, but it can save you a lot of trouble. If someone shares a URL, take your time to copy it to your address bar and open it there. That way, you will avoid using the in-app browser to open the link, and it won’t be able to spy on you even if it has malicious codes.

Finally, use browsers such as Brave that block spyware and keep your online activities private, and your personal details secure from those seeking to steal them.

Stay Safe Using In-App Browsers

If you don’t have any browser extensions installed, you should be mindful of the ones you install in the future. Apps, however, are inevitable for some, but you can also be careful to only install legit and necessary ones. Also, delete apps that you suspect may be tracking you.

This can help to keep you safe from JavaScript that can steal your information. InAppBrowser will also give you an idea of which JavaScript you have, and you can go on to research which are harmful and which are not, in order to clean your devices every once in a while.

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